This past week I went on a three-day Basic Copy Editing and Proofreading Course run by the Cape Town based company McGillivray Linnegar Associates. Looking at the other side of writing was a fascinating experience and, although the course focused mainly on training the participants to become freelance editors of non-fiction, as a fiction writer I did learn some interesting tips and hints that I hope will tighten up my own writing.
When I attend a course, I always think that if I've come away with just one benefit or new skill, I've had my money's worth. I came away from this course with so much new knowledge my mind is reeling. I still have to sift through it at a leisurely pace to fully appreciate all the benefits.
In the immediate aftermath of the course, I know that there are two skills I've fallen in love with: the house style sheet and proofreading marks. These two editing skills will prove invaluable, particularly when revising the first draft of my next novel (which I'm gearing up to begin writing in early January 2011).
The house style sheet is a document drawn up at the beginning of a book project and helps keep track of decisions about style and grammar. For example, is this book going to be edited according to Oxford or Chicago style manuals? Is 'old fashioned' going to be treated as 'old-fashioned' or 'old fashioned'? Are ages going to be written as fifty or 50? As you make these decisions, you record them on the house style sheet and when, later in the manuscript, you came across the same dilemma you can refer back the sheet. This helps ensure consistency throughout the manuscript.
To get some idea of proofreading marks, search google images for ‘proofreading marks’ and see how cute (and handy!) they are. And it's well worth your while to invest in a good style manual, such as the Oxford Dictionary for Writers & Editors.
Everyone has different tastes and needs, so no course can hope to be perfect. The main advantages of this course were the valuable course content and the lecturer, who was professional, friendly, highly knowledgeable and easy to approach (no-one felt silly asking basic questions; in fact, I got so carried away asking questions on the second day that, on the final morning, one of the other course attendees took me aside before we started for the day and politely asked me to shut up! *blush*). The disadvantage of the course (for my particular needs) was that it was geared mainly for non-fiction editing.
If you want to strengthen your writing skills and you can find an editing course near your home, I’d highly recommend you attend. For those of you lucky enough to live in South Africa, along with all its other advantages, you’ll be able to attend the same course I did.
To find out more about the editing and training courses run by McGillivray Linnegar Associates contact Ken or John on firstname.lastname@example.org for up-to-date information. You won’t regret it!